The West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
Curecanti National Recreation Area
Looking north near Willow Creek area, Blue Mesa Reservoir
On this page I show a bit of what can be seen by looking away from the water features that line this part of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway, from Blue Mesa Reservoir to the Hermit's Rest Overlook above Morrow Point Lake. In the Blue Mesa Reservoir area you're in a wide valley area with lots of mesas capped by San Juan Mountains lava and lots of time-carved West Elk Brecchia to look at.
Just beyond the Blue Mesa Dam crossing
Once you make the turn and cross the Blue Mesa Dam though, things change quickly. This drive along the northern edge of the Curecanti National Recreation Area is not for the squeamish: something about hanging high on a ledge directly above a deep chasm to the left and a steep hillside to the right (I drove this road from south to north). But if you can get past that part of it, this is an absolutely gorgeous drive. Just pay attention to the road and you'll be alright. There's lots of good pull-offs along the way and even some good hiking trails to explore.
To the left is the hard-rock canyon gorge, to the right is what remains from the West Elk Volcano eruptions of 30 million years ago. High elevations with lots of water means some pretty nice aspen groves, big blue spruce, lodgepole pines, wildflowers aplenty... I highly recommend the drive.
The curve by Curecanti Creek
Looking up the valley of Curecanti Creek
West Elk Brecchia pinnacles topped by San Juan lava, near Pioneer Point